#84 Discipline


An earlier post referred to a discipline policy, and how this should fit in with school policy.

Writing a discipline policy is fairly easy, particularly if you base it on the whole school policy. Keeping order in a busy school library is not so easy, and requires a great amount of patience, perseverance and a certain amount of psychology.

First, what not to do.
Lose your temper. This instantly marks you down as the loser in any conflict. Respect goes out the window on both sides.
Get personal. Deal with the behaviour, not the pupil. Don’t slag them off or humiliate them, this will often backfire on you.
Get involved with a fellow professional’s pupils. Deal with it personally, after the class.

I’ve seen teaching staff shouting loudly at pupils within an inch or two of their face. Where do you go after that?

Things to do.
Keep calm. Even if you’re irritated internally, keep a calm exterior and a level tone of voice and manner.
Concentrate on the behaviour, repeatedly pointing out that it is unacceptable, if necessary.
Isolate the poor behaviour. If a pupil refuses to leave, clear everyone else out. The miscreant will usually leave of their own accord before the room is cleared.
Follow through. If an incident is unresolved, ensure you follow it through to the bitter end. Involve guidance teachers, teachers, managers and the headteacher if necessary. This is not usually necessary, but take it as far as it needs to go.

This is a very difficult topic, and one that doesn’t get any easier. However, if you are observant, attend relevant training and learn from your fellow professionals (particularly good teachers) your working life can be relatively calm and satisfying.

The tips here are short, but fairly sweet.


#4 Discipline & School Management


The issue of discipline in the library should not rest solely with the librarian as an individual, or as the sole responsibility of the library team.

First, be aware of the school behaviour management policy and how it is applied throughout the school.

Create a library behaviour management plan which takes the whole school plan into account, and which will be manageable and clear for staff and pupils. Ensure that the policy is ratified at the appropriate level in the school, and that the library plan is incorporated in official paperwork.

It is imperative that any behaviour policy is applied in the library in the same manner as it is applied across the school, and always put this in writing. If possible, try and ensure that the library is mentioned in the school discipline policy. The librarian should have the same sanctions at her/his disposal as any member of school academic staff. The trade-off for this is that school rules must be applied in the library, and sanctions administered accordingly. Occasionally, this may lead to conflict and anomalies, but it is ultimately preferable to be operating within the school discipline model, than outwith it as a separate unit.

Be aware of health and safety legislation. It may be illegal to have 100 pupils in the library at lunchtime, even if you can cope with them! If there are guidelines for maximum supervision numbers for teachers, they may be useful as a starting point for librarians.

Be aware of fire regulations. If you have a crowded library, will pupils be able to exit quickly and safely in the event of an emergency? If they leave their bags and coats behind chairs and on the floor, this could be asking for trouble.

An effective discipline policy in the library will make your life easier and less stressful on a daily basis. It will gain you respect from teachers and senior managers. It will also enable pupils who want to use the library for positive reasons to do so in a calm and welcoming environment.


  • Ensure you are on the relevant committee which deals with such policy issues, or at least have some input to it.
  • Be aware of the contents of the whole school behaviour management plan.
  • Tailor the library plan to fit seamlessly beside the whole school plan, and make sure the contents are recognised officially within the school.
  • Lobby for help and support at peak times: from pupils, teaching staff or support staff.
  • Apply the rules fairly and consistently; the easiest way to undermine discipline is by displaying lack of consistency.
  • Your first instances of bad behaviour should be dealt with swiftly, and taken to the highest appropriate level. Show them you mean business; better to start tough and ease up later, than vice-versa.
  • Be aware of Health & Safety legislation. In some instances, you may be able to use it to your advantage.

Discipline & School Management: Simple Framework Policy

Useful Weblinks:

School Library Association page on positive behaviour management